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Is Big Sugar the Next Liability Target?

Growing paranoia is the hallmark of the aging process for me.  Although I am a generally affable sort (I know, it doesn’t always seem that way from my writing), I am also a fairly suspicious person.  I am starting to think that all the food industry’s sweet talk about the innocence of sugar is really just icing on a toxic cake and that we’ve all been sold a bill of goods.  In particular, I wonder — and part of me hopes — that Big Sugar might soon replace Big Tobacco as the favorite target of our most underappreciated and misunderstood national resource…the plaintiff’s bar.  There is no question we eat way too much sugar and that the increase in consumption has coincided nicely with both our rise in obesity and decline in health status even though we are living longer.

Not that I think the Tobacco Settlement (TS) was great social policy.  You can read my full view here; but, to summarize, as an immigrant and a person of color, a part of me resents the TS because all it did is push the burden of fulfillment of the financial terms into the hearts and lungs of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The smug satisfaction of tobacco opponents in the US and their glib dismissal of the impact on predominantly poor people of color around the world is first order racism.

Any analogous move against Big Sugar (BS) could be quite interesting.  There is, of course, the delectable duality of “what did they know and when did they know it?”.  Recently published opinions and data have forced me to think harder about just what goes on in the labs of companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Nestle, Domino, Mars, Hershey’s, etc.  No doubt BS defenders will say that sugar is “all natural” (ahem, so is tobacco), and safe when used as intended…and, that is where things will start to go awry for them.

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